Mistaken view of history must be corrected

From the editorial of Yomiuri Shimbun on August 1

A resolution adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday urging the Japanese government to formally apologize over the "comfort women system of forced military prostitution" is obviously based on a misunderstanding of facts. Although the resolution is not legally binding, we cannot overlook this denunciation.

The resolution accuses the Imperial Japanese Army of having "coerced" women from Asian countries to work as "sex slaves" before and during World War II.

Of course, it would be remiss not to state that the Japan-U.S. alliance is absolutely vital to the national interest of Japan. In addition to close military and economic relations, both countries share common values such as democracy and human rights.

Nevertheless, we must refute the distortion of the facts espoused by the resolution. Allowing misunderstanding of the facts to go unanswered might have the unfortunate effect of creating problems in the Japan-U.S. relationship.


Flimsy origins

In the early 1990s, a certain Japanese newspaper reported that women had been forcibly recruited as "comfort women" under the name of "volunteer corps." This represents a groundless interpretation of the fact that women volunteered to work as "women corps" during the war at factories and other installations.

In 1993, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a statement including wording that could be taken as indicating comfort women were recruited forcibly by government and military authorities. This served to spread misunderstanding of the comfort women issue both at home and abroad.

But, as the government has repeatedly asserted, there are no documents proving that women were recruited forcibly as comfort women.

Despite this, some people even in Japan continue to claim there was "coercion" in recruiting women as comfort women. They develop their arguments without providing undisputable examples of "coercion" and take the U.S. House resolution--which describes the comfort women system as "one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century"--at face value.


Japan singled out

So-called comfort stations were not limited to the Imperial Japanese Army. U.S. Occupation forces used such comfort facilities in Japan, and it is now known that the South Korean military had similar facilities during the 1950-53 Korean War. During World War II, the German military also had "comfort" facilities with women who had been recruited systematically and forcibly from areas occupied by the German forces.

So why was Japan singled out as the sole target for the U.S. resolution?

Vigorous lobbying by a Chinese-affiliated, anti-Japan organization that has extensively supported U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who initiated the resolution, played a key role in the move to adopt the resolution. There is no such an organization seeking to sully Germany. Of course, no organization in the United States seeks to condemn the "moral responsibility" of the U.S. military for its actions.

The possibility that similar resolutions could be approved by the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress cannot be ruled out. Japan's diplomatic authorities must make more efforts to dispel the misunderstanding of the comfort women issue in the United States.


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